2011 – National 8th Grade 4th Place Award Winner:

Anthony Benja-Athon, New York.

Do the Ends Justify the Means ?

What is ethical? Is it what is right or what the laws stipulate? Or is it the opposite? Being ethical throughout history and in the future will always be defined by what is the cultural normalcy. No matter what the standards are at the time, when someone steps “out of line” a law could have been broken. In some unjust societies, however, a criminal offence can often be a moral obligation. Although it is usually correct to follow the law, laws sometimes need to be broken in order to fulfill a moral or ethical obligation.

In the era before the Civil War abolitionists and others broke the Jim Crow and Fugitive Slave Laws. Throughout the 1800’s, millions of African Americans were forced into slavery in the United Sates. Jim Crow Laws, The Black Codes, and Fugitive Slave acts made blacks inferior people and these laws were accepted ideas. Abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman and other and everyday people however broke these laws by helping many slaves escape. Despite it being illegally, the ends justify the means because the laws of the time were morally wrong and cruel.

The Civil Rights Movement was a time of great social change in America. African American figures such as Rosa Parks civilly protested so that all people, no matter the color of their skin, could be equal. Rosa Parks was arrested on the reason that she did not give up her bus seat to a white man. Since the enlightenment, philosophers such as John Locke have advocated that all people are born with equal rights. Her actions inspired the world community to follow in her actions, vision, and ambition. Eventually her dreams because a reality.

In the 1990’s, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested after opposing the long ruling dictatorship in Myanmar by campaigning for a Democratic government. Aung San Suu Kyi promotion of Democracy in Myanmar was seen as unlawful to the government while in fact she was representing the people and their rights. Her actions probably inspired people all over the world to stand up for themselves. What was seen as her unethical actions was justified through the fact that it was her moral obligation.

Throughout history and even today there are always advocates for causes that break the law. Some of these causes are unethical and do not deserve much attention. However, there are some leaders who pursue Human Rights issues that should be a part of our cultural normalcy. Even though at the time these ideas may seem incorrect it is ethical to do something wrong for a good cause. To promote human rights and equality for all, sometimes laws need to be broken.


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